Does Classical Music really make you smarter?
I’m sure everyone has heard at sometime that listening to classical music can make you smarter. How true is this statement? Can it really be proven or quantified? It makes sense on face value and totally believable as well. Let’s see if we can find some proof!
In Popular Media
Years ago in the early 2000’s there was even a cartoon called Little Einsteins. It had a group of small kids solving the mission of the day and music had a big part in finding the solution. The episodes would incorporate famous artworks as well as famous classical music pieces.
Did this make the kids smarter? Inconclusive
The Mozart Effect
There have been various studies throughout the years referring to the Mozart Effect. The first person to mention it being Alfred A. Tomatis in 1991, who said that it increased healing and brain development.
The second and probably the person who had the biggest impact on the public’s belief in the effect is Rauscher around 1993. This study stated by listening to specific pieces of Mozart, it helped spatial reasoning. If you listened to the music pieces it would briefly benefit the spatial reasoning on IQ tests.
How the Mozart Effect became popular
There are two names that pushed the Mozart Effect into the mainstream consciousness of the world. The two were Alex Ross and Don Campbell. The former wrote a newspaper piece that informed the world that listening and playing Mozart made little toddlers smarter. For moms and moms-to-be this was a revelation that led to reevaluation of what needed to be taught to their kids. This was mind blowing, because now your child was competing against kids on the other side of the world instead of kids in your neighborhood. Your kids needed a competitive edge from diapers to college and beyond. If you could somehow harness a tool from such an early edge it would help in tipping the scales to your child.
The second author was Don Campbell who wrote two books, “The Mozart Effect:Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit” and “The Mozart Effect For Children”.
In both books Mr. Campbell eschews the benefit of listening to Mozart’s music specifically the piano concerto pieces to maximize the effects to enhance various factors. Such as I.Q., memory, awareness and other mental disorders.
Was there any conclusive evidence? Inconclusive
Is playing a musical instrument more beneficial than just listening to classical music?
There have been a number of scientific studies that have now proven that playing an instrument really does make you smarter. Studies done in Psychology Today, University of Liverpool and Northwestern University all suggest that playing musical instruments lead to the brain changing in beneficial ways. Such as executive functioning, blood flow to the brain areas that are responsible for music and language, cognitive flexibility and working memory.
Was there conclusive evidence? Yes
What are the next steps to really get smarter?
The best way to really use this information is to utilize both practices, playing and listening to classical music. The best way this can be done is if it is being taught in schools and at home. Remember back in the old days when a kid was in trouble, what was their punishment? The punishment would be to stay after school and write on the chalk board 100’s of times that they wouldn’t do said wrong thing over and over. Why??? Because by writing(actually doing the physical act) it would be ingrained into the child’s brain. There must be actual doing, along with the listening, for it to be soaked into the brain, the hands, arms and the whole body for actual learning and benefits.
What kind of instrument should you learn?
There are so many different instruments that you can learn, wind instruments, percussion instruments and string instruments. What would be best to learn to truly gain the benefits? Since we are talking about classical any instrument that can be seen in a orchestra or symphony would be beneficial. However, I’m pretty partial to the string instrument family of violin, cello, viola and double bass. There is a good site that we’ve found if you want to learn how to play the violin.
What can you do to help in the real world?
If the schools in your area are thinking about getting rid of the arts in your schools, FIGHT IT, tooth and nail. Sports are for the body and The Arts are for the mind. You can’t have one and NOT the other. That is where education today is going in the wrong way. Most times you can see with sports quantifiable results rather quickly but with things going on in the mind not so fast. That doesn’t mean that improvements aren’t taking place. The best and easiest way to see results are in the students grades. Children who take advantage of the arts are usually some of the smartest kids in school. That is no coincidence. Keep learning and keep playing.
One of my favorite quotes is from the movie August Rush, “The music is all around us!”